The “Cougar Climber” is aiming for 50 climbs, $50,000 for WSU Nursing scholarships

Linda Hess and Erin Roach

By Addy Hatch, WSU Marketing and Communications

Erin Roach comes from a Coug family. He loves the outdoors.

His wife Linda Hess was a nurse for 38 years and is passionate about all that nurses bring to community health.

Together, the retired Gig Harbor, Washington, couple came up with a plan to help the nursing profession and Washington State University.

This spring and summer Roach will become the Cougar Climber, attempting to hike 50 peaks and mountains in 38 days. The goal is to raise $50,000 for WSU College of Nursing scholarships.

Though he admits he’s a social media newbie, he’ll be documenting his progress on Instagram and Facebook along the way.

“This was my idea to help nursing students with scholarships, but also a different way to promote WSU,” he said recently.

Roach’s hikes will mostly be daytrips, with elevation gains of 2,000 to 6,000 feet — “scramble climbing” as opposed to technical ascents involving ropes, he said. Each round trip will be 6 to 20 miles, on mountains in Washington and Utah.

He’s done a little of this kind of climbing before, he said. But his favored outdoor hobby, backcountry flyfishing, also involves a lot of hiking and scrambling.

“I did 25-mile roundtrips last year with 3,500-4,000 feet of elevation gain. It wasn’t a problem for me,” he said.

The idea came to him when he was putting together a memory book for his brother, who attended WSU at the same time he did. (Roach graduated with a BA in Business Administration in 1986).

“That got me the WSU fever again,” he said. Besides his brother, Cougs in his family include two uncles, a cousin and his parents.

Hess got her nursing degree from the University of Illinois, but they both agreed that the WSU College of Nursing should be the beneficiary of the climbing project.

“I feel like WSU has an excellent program,” Linda said. “You come out with a four-year degree that’s decently affordable, and is statewide.”

Roach said he recognized the role nurses play in community health even before he met his wife.

Added Hess, “Erin has said to me that he appreciates how much impact nurses create on the job, but also in the world with their whole way of approaching life.”

Follow along with Erin Roach, the Cougar Climber, and donate to help him reach his goal, at

For more information about supporting the WSU College of Nursing, and our students, please contact Carolyn Wika at, or by phone at (509) 324-7245 or visit